The Meadows, Darlington, WI

SWCAP Provides Affordable Housing and Services to Agricultural and Farmworker Families

Wally Orzechowski, Executive Director, Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program (SWCAP), was concerned over the lack of affordable housing for agricultural and farmworker families in Darlington, Wisconsin. Lafayette County is the most agriculture-dependent county in the state. Agricultural work provides over half of the jobs for the county’s workforce and accounts for 85% of the county’s land usage. 

A large portion of these workers have Hispanic or Latinx roots, and many of them are Spanish speakers. Agricultural and farmworkers in the county also have a high percentage of family members dealing with permanent developmental, physical, sensory, medical, or mental health disabilities. SWCAP, as one of very few social services organizations in a rural corner of Wisconsin, provides a very diverse range of services and programs to assist persons dealing with the challenges of poverty and moving out of poverty to economic self-sufficiency. 

Cinnaire Solutions was able to work with SWCAP to develop quality affordable housing for this very specialized population.

“Through each stage of our complex project to support rural farm workers, Cinnaire Solutions tenaciously sought out the best outcome for us,” Wally said. “From navigating the optimal sources of financing through architecture and the acquisition and construction process, the team understood our goals, shared our mission and got us through the hurdles to make the project happen.”

The Meadows is a 32-unit new construction project composed of two 1- and 2-story townhouse buildings. All of the units are for agricultural and farmworkers earning 30%, 50% or 60% or less of the Lafayette County Area Median Income. Twenty-four of the 32 units will receive RD subsidies allowing these residents to pay 30 percent of their AGI as rent, with seven designated as supportive service.

Construction cost for the project was $6.4 million, with a total project cost of $8.3 million, financed with LIHTC from WHEDA, a USDA RD loan, an AHP grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago and a State of WI HOME loan. Cinnaire provided $3.7 million of LIHTC equity for the development.

The development consists of 14 two-bedroom units and 18 three-bedroom units within two townhouse-style buildings. The property includes an on-site management office, a club house, an activity room and laundry facilities. And the site is conveniently located near stores, employment, schools, healthcare and community and safety services.

In addition, SWCAP’s Multicultural Outreach Program provides residents assistance with healthcare needs, English language skills, nutrition education, legal issues, child care and education, and life skills.

Wally Orzechowski

For almost twenty years, Wally Orzechowski has been the Executive Director of SWCAP, a rural, Wisconsin anti-poverty agency, and has focused on reducing health disparities, developing affordable housing, encouraging local food production, job creation, small business development and many other projects to eliminate or reduce the problems faced by the rural poor.

In recent years Wally’s focus has been on developing housing for specific rural populations including farm worker housing, small scale housing in rural communities, supportive housing for persons recovering from opioid addiction and affordable housing for low-income families negatively impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic.